The Washington Post

Maintenance needed

The maintenance light is lit on my dashboard, and I mean this both literally and metaphorically.

The fabled Honda, tenured since 2000, now has 144,000 miles on it, and I think my feet have even more. My health is good but I’ve got warning lights flashing all over the place these days. Maintenance needed. I can’t decide today whether to go to the garage or the doctor. When I say “I need to go to the inspection station today” I could be talking about my car or my body.

Meanwhile I have a new iPhone, which twice has died mysteriously, perhaps in response to being held in my cold, aging hand. Entering the 21st Century, finally, has been traumatic, for the phone is so smart, so powerful, so crammed with programs, that I’m like a little boy trying to ride a Harley.

You spend so much of your life seeking novelty, and then you reach a point where you’d rather just stick with what you know, what works, what you can serenely manage. I’d be happy to drive the Honda for another 10 years, except I know it’s full of fatigued belts and corroded pipes and clogged tubes, and soon it will decide that it no longer wants to take me anywhere. I’ll turn the key and it’ll just harumph. It’ll say: Take the bus.

I’d buy a new car, except I doubt I have the money or the stamina to endure the blizzard of options. The new car would surely have weird features like a push-button instead of a normal ignition, and the entire thing would be a telephone, integrated with my iPhone and my iTunes and perhaps even my blogging software, so that as I drove down the road I could shout metadata keywords and compose SEO headlines, all while downloading music and tracking myself on the GPS and, of course, tweeting. What a world we live in!

Except I am happy with the old Honda, even if it’s trying to warn me about something.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."


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